Blind man’s plea for help opens wide door to hundreds in need

Blind man’s plea for help opens wide door to hundreds in need

By: Major Frank Duracher

A phone call from a blind man in Williamsburg County, South Carolina, became the catalyst for literally scores of seniors to receive desperately-needed food boxes for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis. A/Captain Tim Scott, Georgetown corps officer, could not have known when he answered the phone, one week into the crisis, that a portal was about to swing open, allowing Salvation Army volunteers and staff to repeatedly respond in the weeks that followed.

“The whole thing began with that phone call,” Captain Tim said, “from this elderly man who needed food in the worst way. Then he told me that he was blind and could not come to us, so I told him that I would bring the food to him.”

Then the captain had a better idea. The man attends one of three senior centers in Williamsburg County, so Captain Tim asked him to contact his center director, who then contacted The Salvation Army.

“When she contacted me, we had an automatic opening to serve 90 senior citizens who are members of her three centers.”

The Army in Georgetown is responsible for the two counties of Georgetown and Williamsburg – and the travel time from one end of Georgetown County to the farthest point in Williamsburg County can take up to three hours.

“Plus, the fact that Williamsburg County is ranked as one of the poorest in the country. There’s a lot of abject poverty there!” he said.

Captains Tim and Melissa Scott, assisted by their daughter Brie, 24, began making nearly daily runs throughout the two counties, as well as overseeing drive-by distribution in front of the corps building in Georgetown proper.

“I really like loading stuff into the cars as the people drive up for a food box,” Brie says. Brie lives in Georgetown and works in a daycare center, but since it is closed, probably into the month of May, she works alongside her parents.

“That can be a good thing and a bad thing,” she said with a chuckle.

Typical food boxes are crammed with non-perishable items: canned fruit and vegetables, cereal, mac and cheese, bags of trail mix and peanut butter, for example.

“But we are really scratching for food resources, since our regular pantry now usually runs bare,” Captain Tim said.

Comparing a major hurricane that hit his South Carolina coastline last summer, the captain fondly recalled two tractor-trailer loads of food that came to him in the days that followed back then.

“Man, I wish I had that now! Getting enough food has been a serious issue.”

Captain Tim does have food donations coming in, but often it seems to be not enough. A large donation from Fresh Market and a food drive conducted by the local YMCA came just in time one Monday.

The captain developed a rotating system to keep the public safe from virus germs that can live on metal objects for a few days.

“My admin building is now a food warehouse. I have the hallway and some rooms that are designated by date,” he said. Food donations coming in on Tuesday, for instance, are stored and labeled in one area; Wednesday’s come-ins are marked in the next room, etc.

“After the fourth day, I pull out (the food with the earliest date) and we can box in preparation for distribution,” he said.


To Battle We Go: Every Salvationist must be a marksman

To Battle We Go: Every Salvationist must be a marksman

By: Dr. Steve Kellner

The United States Marine Corps prides itself on the combat effectiveness of the individual Marine rifleman, and this begins in recruit training with a serious commitment to marksmanship training. Marine Corps training is longer, at 13 weeks, than that of any other military service. Recruits spend two full weeks at the firing range. It’s expensive and time consuming, but it pays off on the battlefield.

To further refine their marksmanship and other combat skills after recruit training, every new Marine goes directly to a School of Infantry for another 30 days of training. Because the Marine Corps considers basic combat skills its top priority, all this basic combat training is completed before Marines attend training for their military occupational specialty, the actual job they will perform in the Marine Corps.

Not only does every new Marine know how to shoot well, but all Marines, from cook to commandant, must maintain their marksmanship certification by requalifying at the firing range every year. The Marine Corps has many different jobs, some highly specialized and requiring many years of training and experience, but no matter what their job, title or rank, every Marine must be able to shoot. Thus, the slogan, “Every Marine A Rifleman.” We in The Salvation Army are involved in many different ministries, and we fill many different roles as soldiers, local officers, officers and ministry employees. Some of these roles are highly specialized and require years of training and experience and may seem somewhat removed from street level Salvation Army ministry. But every Salvationist must be willing and able to effectively proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ at all times and in all settings.

For Salvationists, this begins with a serious commitment to discipleship, especially with our young people. Our Junior Soldier and Corps Cadet programs are the Army’s equivalent to Marine Corps recruit training, where our young people learn the basics of Christianity and how to proclaim the gospel to a lost world. Any adults in our corps who may have missed out on this kind of early training need to be brought up to speed in an intentional way. Every Salvationist must be able to shoot!

For those who have had the training, it’s a matter of constantly “requalifying at the firing range,” keeping their experience with the Lord current and their skills in witnessing about their faith sharp. For different people in different settings, this will mean sharpening different evangelism skills. Some are working with children, some with adults, some with social service clients, some with a staff of employees or officers, so one size will not fit all. But let’s all be able to confidently say “Every Salvationist An Evangelist!”


Media partnerships are key in Asheville, N.C.

Media partnerships are key in Asheville, N.C.

By: Major Frank Duracher

Synergy is proving to be very effective in Asheville, NC, as The Salvation Army is partnering with media outlets to minister to struggling families during the coronavirus quarantine.

“The Salvation Army is partnered with Sinclair Broadcasting across the (North and South Carolina) division, and I have been working with WLOS locally in creating both awareness and funds for our services,” said Erin Wilson, director of development and communications for the Asheville Corps.

“This week, we are working with WLOS to shed light on two major arenas: our canteen and our shelter.”

A Salvation Army mobile canteen is parked in the United Way parking lot on S. French Broad Avenue. Plans are for it to stay there for the foreseeable future to serve meals daily. In the first weekend alone, 1,200 meals were served, and WLOS interviewed Major Phil Swyers to spread the word.

“We are using food donations from (local restaurant) Juicy Lucy, Olive Garden, as well as Pepsi,” Major Swyers said on-the-air, “and hopefully other businesses will step up.”

WLOS reporter John Lee is profiling families in the Army’s shelter. Lee interviewed two families – a man and his son, and a woman with her daughter – which aired later that week. Both families thanked shelter staff for everything being done for them. In both interviews, they were not only complimentary of the environment and support they are receiving, but both parents commented on how the Army’s care and concern for them is making all the difference.

Another WLOS reporter, Jennifer Emert, includes the Army in her report on the effects COVID-19 is having on local nonprofits.

Wilson is also working closely with the Asheville Radio Group, creating commercials about the Army’s role in the crisis.

“Because we are utilizing the canteen and observing all safety regulations in our shelter, we are in need of food donations and PPE” (personal protective equipment), Wilson said. She adds that work with the radio group is providing additional 10- and 30-second ads per week across all three stations.

Scrambling to find untapped sources of funding, Wilson said she is “scouring the web, local resources, and reaching out to our connections (in Buncombe County), as well as nationally, to find grants we can apply for to alleviate our financial burden.” Of the 45 grant opportunities she’s found so far, she is applying for funds from such agencies as the Community Foundation of WNC; Bank of America Hunger Relief; and, Publix Charities Grant.


‘Choose My Plate’ helps families navigate nutritional needs

‘Choose My Plate’ helps families navigate nutritional needs

By: Major Frank Duracher

Salvation Army staff in Conway, South Carolina, have modified a nationally-utilized program to further aid families affected by self-quarantining to prepare balanced, nutritional meals.

“My Choice” is a concept many food pantries around the country have moved to in recent years. Jennifer Williams, social service worker for The Salvation Army of Horry County, started a My Choice pantry in October 2019. The pantry was open a couple of days each week and provided bags of food to residents of the county, which has the most land area of any in South Carolina.

But when the COVID-19 crisis hit spiraling families out of work and income, Jennifer quickly realized she needed to arrange for “something more.”

She employed the USDA “Choose My Plate” guide, which is an educational tool specifically geared towards supplemental food pantries. Choose My Plate takes the My Choice concept a step further.

A variety of color-coded shelves with the “Choose My Plate” design gives neighbors the tools and resources to create well-balanced meals with the items they just chose from the shelf, said Captain Carl Melton, Conway corps officer.

However, with the ongoing pandemic and social-distancing instructions, The Salvation Army of Horry County could no longer allow clients into the pantry to choose the items. After the crisis is over, the educational tool will be continued.

In the meantime, Salvation Army staff and volunteers pack the essentials, while guided by the color emblems to make a variety of meals. Along with each box handouts are provided, detailing the Choose My Plate program.

Furthermore, at families can find helpful guidance that includes suggested calorie intake for children of various age groups, nutritious recipes and dietary guidelines.

The concept will prove to be a lasting resource for healthy family-dining long after the coronavirus subsides.

“We know there will continue to be a need for food, and The Salvation Army is ready to meet that need and Do the Most Good,” Captain Melton said.


Drive slow and breathe deep

Drive slow and breathe deep

By: Lt. Colonel Dean Hinson

As we collectively combat the chaos of COVID-19, I thought I would set aside those aspects of spiritual life development and provide this message of thanks and encouragement in these difficult days.

First, I would like to say thank you to all the soldiers, officers, employees and volunteers who are facing the challenges of this pandemic with grace and innovation. Whether you are sheltering in place, staying home, in disaster mode – providing  assistance in new and different ways to stay safe, and/or coming up with creative ways to be the Church in these difficult days, thank you for what you are doing. We are faced with new and changing challenges. I am very proud of you – The Salvation Army.

There is a phrase that applies to these troubled times. When on vacation in Maine, we came to a sign as  we traveled through the deep forest returning to our lodging. I slowed the car down, rolled down the window and followed the instructions – “Drive Slow and Breathe Deep.” These crazy days have caused many of us to slow down, and we are learning that deep breaths have a calming effect on what we are going through.

God’s Word has much to say about “breath,” beginning with God breathing into the dust and providing life to Adam (Genesis 2:7, Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.) to the risen Jesus appearing to the disciples, afraid behind locked doors, and breathing on them (John 20:22, Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit”).

During very difficult days of exile, when the people were losing hope – wondering if God had forsaken them, the prophet Ezekiel was taken to a valley filled with bones. He said they were scattered everywhere and that they were completely dried out – signifying a great disaster of death void of any possibility of life. He was told to prophesy to the bones and say, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says:  Look!  I am going to put breath into you and make you live again! I will put flesh and muscle on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord”  (Ezekiel 37:5-6). And when the Lord called the breath from the four winds into these dead bodies, we are told that “they all came to life and stood on their feet – a great army!”

Whether it is the dark days following the crucifixion of Christ, or the chaos and challenges of a COVID-19 pandemic, or the terrifying truth of exile – God says do not lose hope. My breath brings life!

Slow down and breathe deep! May you experience God’s blessing in the midst of this crisis.


Army ministers to needs in a variety of ways

Army ministers to needs in a variety of ways

By: David Ibata

The Salvation Army in the Southern Territory mobilizes to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. As families face sudden joblessness and financial crises, and vulnerable homeless residents seek shelter from the disease, corps and commands come up with creative ways to serve people in need and welcome stepped-up support from their community partners.

Cleveland, Tennessee: The Salvation Army serves a “Latte of Love” to our Superheroes in Scrubs. Volunteers and staff members from The Salvation Army’s coffee shop, Inman Coffee, visit a different health care facility each day to deliver coffee and lattes to show appreciation for their sacrificial service to our community. “It’s the least we can do to show our appreciation and love,” said Sergeant Ruth Forgey, corps administrator. Citing the organization’s history of serving coffee, food and emotional and spiritual care to frontline soldiers and emergency workers, Sergeant Forgey said, “The Salvation Army has been doing this for decades; today is no different.”

Frederick, Maryland: Responding to households in need due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lieutenant Chris Raymer and The Salvation Army partner with the Frederick Community Action Agency to prepare and deliver food bags every Thursday to 150 senior citizen households at the Taney Village and Catoctin Manor apartments. Every Friday, The Salvation Army delivers food bags to the Asian American Center of Frederick; U.S. Army veterans of the Retired Senior Volunteer Program make sure the food gets to needy veterans in Brunswick and Mount Airy, Maryland.

Orlando, Florida: In partnership with the City of Orlando, The Salvation Army raised a 5,200-square-foot tent to increase capacity for its emergency shelter. The tent allows for social distancing practices to be accommodated while continuing to serve the same number of residents.

Augusta, Georgia: The Salvation Army was awarded a $75,000 grant to convert its Center of Hope emergency shelter from overnights only to a 24-hour operation to protect homeless residents from the novel coronavirus outbreak. “Honestly, it’s the single largest gift we’ve received during our COVID-19 response,” Major Douglas McClure, Augusta area commander, told The Augusta Chronicle. “We’re feeding more than we ever have with three meals and two snacks a day and offering tutoring for children.” The funds were among $245,000 in grants to nonprofits announced April 7 out of the CSRA (Central Savannah River Area) COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund of the United Way and Community Foundation.

Houston, Texas: Major Zach Bell, Greater Houston area commander, helps load supplies into the disaster canteen to serve lunch and hygiene kits to more than 300 homeless people in the downtown area.

Lake Charles, Louisiana: The Salvation Army’s Center of Hope shelter is the only remaining soup kitchen open in the community, providing daily to-go meals. The Army’s food pantry also remains open, with the shelter operating 24/7 with increased cleaning measures and social distancing.

North Georgia: The Jackson EMC Foundation, the giving arm of an electrical utility serving north Georgia, awarded emergency funding totaling $20,000 to assist four Salvation Army corps responding to the COVID-19 outbreak. The Athens, Gainesville, Gwinnett County and Toccoa corps each received $5,000 for emergency housing and food assistance in their respective service areas. The funding was part of $142,000 total for nonprofit food banks, ministries and other organizations helping individuals and families with shelter, food and financial aid during the pandemic. The utility also funded two school districts to install SmartBus WiFi systems to provide internet access to students digitally learning from home.


Wilmington temporary shelter ‘under the big top’

Wilmington temporary shelter ‘under the big top’

By: Major Frank Duracher

The Salvation Army of Cape Fear (Wilmington, North Carolina) is attacking a severe COVID-19 related problem presented to asymptomatic homeless and transient individuals in Hanover County. A sprawling white tent is erected next to the Army’s downtown facility on North Third Street.

The unique response followed a joint letter from Major Mark Craddock, Wilmington corps officer, and Katrina R. Knight, executive director of the Good Shepherd Center – two of Wilmington’s leading emergency shelter agencies – addressed to Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo and New Hanover County Commission Chair Julia Olson-Boseman.

“In the coming days, the city and county must take action to address the immediate needs of homeless residents or risk mass infection and lives lost throughout the community,” the joint-letter stated. “Existing emergency shelter do not have the capacity or wherewithal to quarantine persons with COVID-19.”

One solution: a 25-bed temporary shelter, complete with hot meal feeding, restrooms, laundry facilities and a hand-sanitizing station. Very soon after the tent was erected, it filled up. In addition to those temporarily housed, the Army is tasked with providing food boxes to the community families struggling financially during the crisis.

“Some of us are a little bit scared right now. So are these people here,” Major Mark states in a video posted on Facebook.

The Salvation Army is also assisting in placing into hotels individuals who have tested positive with the coronavirus, he added, for proper quarantine purposes.

The Army is a member of the New Hanover Disaster Coalition, an inclusive and diverse alliance of some 70 community leaders, faith groups, nonprofits and members of the public dedicated to the readiness, relief and recovery of all New Hanover County residents affected by disasters – presently addressing needs presented by COVID-19.


USA South called to join worldwide Army in prayer, fasting

USA South called to join worldwide Army in prayer, fasting

By: Dan Childs

Salvationists of the USA Southern Territory and the entire Salvation Army world are being called on to set aside this coming Sunday, April 19, as a day of prayer for relief from the COVID-19 public health crisis. General Brian Peddle called the international Salvation Army to prayer on that day, and Commissioners Willis and Barbara Howell have reinforced that call with a territorial call to prayer and fasting on Sunday.

Commissioner Willis Howell was joined by Territorial Sergeant Major Jeremy Rowland in a video message (see below) calling on the South to set aside Sunday as a full day of prayer and fasting. Commissioner Howell noted that we are living in days of challenge and adjustment imposed by social distancing, changes in work routines, loss of employment in many cases and financial uncertainty.

“But on the other side of the coin,” he said, “for many, these days have also helped them discover a spiritual power and strength they’ve perhaps never experienced before. We’re learning that through phone calls, video meetings and certainly through prayer that it’s possible to be together in our separateness. We’d like to leverage that for the sake of the Kingdom.”

TSM Rowland said that fasting is a valuable resource that can be a part of our arsenal in appealing to God for intervention into the coronavirus crisis.

“Fasting is not something we talk about much in The Salvation Army, at least not like we used to,” he said. “But it is a powerful weapon … both the Old and New Testaments teach the value of fasting.”

Resources for the territorial day of prayer and fasting are available at

General Peddle, meanwhile, said in a video message that, “I believe things happen when people pray.”

The General said that because of the social distancing being practiced, the international call to prayer cannot be acted upon in corporate worship as is normally done. Acting upon this call to prayer will require a personal commitment.

Both the General’s video and resources for the day of prayer may be found on The Salvation Army’s international website (

General Peddle asked that people, wherever they are in the world, set aside sunrise as the time to prayer for the Army and its ministry in the world, setting off a “tsunami of prayer” that will sweep across the world’s continents as the day progresses.

He shared several prayer topics, including prayer for people who have lost family members; for those who are alone, isolated and afraid; for many who have very little during this time of isolation; and for families whose futures seem uncertain.

General Peddle asked that Salvationists pray for “the army of essential workers who are holding us up” and challenges people to “pray with urgency that God’s mighty hand will hold back and stop COVID-19.” He called also for Salvationists around the world to pray for “healing and hope in our communities,” leaning on the words of Psalm 91, with its reminder that God is “my refuge and strength, my fortress in whom I trust.”


‘McRelief’ helps The Salvation Army in Statesville, N.C.

‘McRelief’ helps Statesville, N.C., Salvation Army

By: Major Frank Duracher

Two McDonalds restaurant locations in Iredell County, North Carolina, are proving vital to Salvation Army efforts to feed families out of work during the coronavirus crisis. Because of the generosity of Mike and Melissa Neader, owners of the two burger franchises, the Statesville Salvation Army canteen is overseeing separate mobile emergency food pantries, set up in the restaurants’ parking lots to both receive and distribute canned and dry goods to the public.

One location is at the Signal Hill McDonalds, across the street from the Signal Hill Mall in Statesville; while the second location is the Southern States McDonalds on Highway 90, according to Major JoAnn Muré, Statesville corps officer.

Melissa Neader also promotes the outreach on her WSIC radio show, giving updates on future distributions/collections.

“If you can help your neighbors, please drop off non-perishable goods that we will (then) distribute to out-of-work families. If you are in need of these items, please come by and let us help you, in the name of Jesus,” Major Muré told Melissa’s audience.

The major reports heartwarming results during the first weeks of this unique collection and distribution setup. On the first day alone, 52 families were helped “and everyone is so appreciative.”

“We met folks that have lost their jobs and were not sure what they were going to do,” she said, “and we also met a man with a family of six that has no income but receives about $300 worth of food stamps a month.”

She also told of families on the giving side who just want to help their neighbors.

“One man came by on his moped asking if we needed donations – he didn’t need any food; he just wanted to help!”


Clarksville Corps offers birthday cheer to children

Clarksville Corps offers birthday cheer to children

By: David Ibata

A sad consequence of households “social distancing” during the COVID-19 pandemic is the disappearance of children’s activities, like birthday parties. The Salvation Army in Clarksville, Tennessee, seeks to bring a little cheer to families with a Happy Birthday Toy Distribution.

Captain Dawn Whitaker put out the word on social media that if a family has a birthday coming up for a child 1 to 10 years of age, and if they let the corps know at least a week in advance and provide a birth certificate with a child’s date of birth, the corps will prepare a gift bag for pick-up or delivery.

“Especially now with the coronavirus, it’s hard enough to get what you need personally, whether it’s basic needs or things that are life-sustaining,” said Captain Whitaker, who with her husband Captain Jonathan Whitaker are corps officers in Clarksville. “Then when you have a birthday in there – well, kids shouldn’t ever go without.”

The idea appears to have originated with an officer mom in California, as something you can do for your families, if you have toys remaining from the Christmas distribution. A typical gift bag may contain a stuffed animal, a Bible and a craft kit – items age-appropriate for the child.

The first recipient in Clarksville was a 10-year-old girl.

“We packed a gift bag, dropped it off, and waved to her from afar,” Captain Dawn said. The girl’s family also mentioned they were short of food and had no money for gas, so the corps social worker gave them information about agencies and resources that could help.

“I wish I could give a birthday cake, balloons and all,” the captain said. “It’s just us trying to do something to alleviate an expense somewhere, for somebody, if we can.”

Word is getting around; local organizations are passing the information to parents. One resident donated more toys for the outreach. Birthday requests are trickling in.

“Some of the requests I’m getting are from people who hadn’t asked for help before,” Captain Dawn said. “This has helped us scout out areas in the community we didn’t know were there” – such as a large trailer park where the corps now knows there’s a need for food assistance.

“There are people who do need help. If we can get something started now, and as long as we’ve got things to give, we’ll be there.”